The rapid increase in the popularity of technology and the Internet over the past few decades has translated into a surge in the number of people consuming online content. Whether it is from a computer, tablet, smart TV, or mobile phone, the consumption of digital material is on the rise. Many people have made it the default choice when they want to access music, games, entertainment programs, software, and books. However, this increase is accompanied by piracy, where businesses are witnessing an aggressive pirating of their digital content. Tomczyk (1) defines piracy as the illegal distribution of copyright intellectual property by downloading and availing it in digital files without paying the required charges. Although there are laws to protect the theft of online content, the vice has continued unabated. Digital piracy is a crime and negatively affects businesses in terms of loss of content and increasing the risks of exposure to cyberattacks.
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According to the Business Software Alliance, software worth $59 billion was stolen in the year 2010 across the world. In the same year, pirates carted away 20% of all the software installed in the United States, an action that saw the software industry lose up to $9.5 billion. The music industry is the most affected since more than 95% of all the online downloaded music is illegal (Kukla-Gryz, Tyrowicz, and Krawczyk 131). The situation has seen a drastic fall in global sales by more than 30% in the music industry over the past decade. From these statistics, it is apparent that digital piracy is raking havoc in businesses and interfering with creativity.
While most internet users are willing to abide by the copyright protection rules, sometimes they discover that some digital contents are too expensive. Indeed, some computer software programs cost up to thousands of dollars. This implies that they are out of reach for most people using the Internet. This is the most common reason why people pirate digital content. The availability of P2P sharing and torrent websites where almost everything can be obtained for free makes it easy for users to opt for piracy instead of paying for them. On the other hand, some people are not aware that they are stealing digital content from its original creators. Such people are not even aware that digital piracy is a form of theft and punishable by law (Pham, Dang, and Nguyen 1). However, irrespective of the motive behind its use, social engineers and hackers often take advantage of this situation to spread destructive malware that infects the user’s system with dangerous viruses.
Digital piracy negatively affects all the people involved in content creation, either directly or indirectly. A musician can invest a lot of resources, time, and effort to produce a quality album only to realize that she can barely earn money from it. As she will be selling copies of her album at a certain fee to prospective buyers, hundreds of thousands would have been freely downloaded from the Internet and shared online for free. She will lose money and even fail to recover the expenses she used in developing the album. The sad discovery that some people are selling her album at much lower prices will be devastating and discouraging. She might not have the motivation to write and produce music again (Smith and Danaher 1). As a result, all the people involved in the supply chain, such as videographers, vocalists, salespeople, and graphic designers, will lose business. These are people with families who look up to them for support. Therefore, digital piracy does not only affect the content creator but several people as well.
Laws governing the nature of content that should be purchased online are very precise. The general rule is that buying content online means that one is allowed to use, listen, read, and play the content. However, this does not include the right to copy, share, and resell the content to others. Unfortunately, many people do business with other people’s digital content. In this case, one will decide to buy a particular movie online and then charge people to come to watch it (Tomczyk 13). If he gets enough people, he would have made some profits for himself at the expense of the movie creators and directors. This is theft from a digital movie store, which is not different from shoplifting. The law is unambiguous that selling pirated content is forbidden.
Digital contents that have been pirated often carry the risk of malware infection. Most pirated software comes as cracks, and in some file packages whose contents also include malware. It is not unusual to find the.exe file as one of the contents of the de-packer cracked software within a program. Individuals who are behind sharing such files are not doing so because they are generous and want people to enjoy things for free; they also want to exploit users and probably make money out of their schemes. Additionally, most of these websites that purport to issue “free software” are hosted by dubious companies whose motive is to infect a user’s system with malware and retrieve vital data from them. Downloading a cracked software is like handing over the control of one’s PC to other people. It puts one at risk of having their identity stolen, computer corrupted, passwords, and financial information captured.
Despite the lure and benefits of free software and other digital content, it must remain clear that piracy is unethical, criminal, and punishable by law. Unfortunately, sometimes it is not easy to distinguish authentic digital content from pirated ones. Digital pirates have put in a lot of effort to ensure that their pirated contents look as legitimate as the original ones. An honest buyer who is out to purchase a clean product is, therefore, left confused and might end up purchasing the pirated version as the real one. Nonetheless, there are a few tips that can help a buyer distinguish if the digital content he is about to purchase is real or fake.
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Digital content sellers whose prices are “too good to be true” must always be treated with considerable suspicion. The same should apply to those software products that do not show evidence of their authenticities, such as licensing, original disks, warranties, manuals, and service policies. Sellers who are ready to provide backup copies are most likely selling illegal software. Besides, a compilation of different titles of software from various publishers on one CD or disk could be proof that the said software is pirated. When it comes to music or movies, if there is an option of free download in addition to sales elsewhere, then it is a clear indication that the content is pirated.
In conclusion, digital piracy involves the theft and sharing of digital content from other creators without their permission. It leads to the loss of millions of dollars each year from the content creators and their support systems. Although many people love free things and would not mind downloading digital content for free, there are risks associated with this. All people should join hands in fighting digital piracy. It begins with a change in online behaviors.
Kukla-Gryz, Anna, Joanna Tyrowicz and Michał Krawczyk. “Digital piracy and the perception of price fairness: evidence from a field experiment.” Journal of Cultural Economics, vol. 45, 2020, pp. 105–131.
Pham, Quoc Trung, Nhut Minh Dang and Duc Trung Nguyen. “Factors Affecting on the Digital Piracy Behavior: An Empirical Study in Vietnam.” Journal of theoretical and applied electronic commerce research, vol. 15, no. 2, 2020.
Smith, Michael D and Brett Danaher. 2020.The Digital-Piracy Dilemma. Havard Business Review. Web.
Tomczyk, Łukasz. “Evaluation of Digital Piracy by Youths.” Future Internet, vol. 13, no. 11, 2021, pp. 1-26.